COWBOY LOGIC: The hay maze: Looking for the cow's reward
TOWNER, N.D. -- Tedious jobs don't get any easier if you wait to do them after 7 feet of snow have fallen. Actually, I can't think of any jobs that are easier after 7 feet of snowfall. Maybe snow sledding gets easier, but that's more of a recreat...
TOWNER, N.D. -- Tedious jobs don't get any easier if you wait to do them after 7 feet of snow have fallen. Actually, I can't think of any jobs that are easier after 7 feet of snowfall. Maybe snow sledding gets easier, but that's more of a recreation than a job.
Misery loves company, so it warms my heart every time I tell someone about the couple hundred bales I have left out in the field and they confess to me they have as much or more left out as I do. Maybe they're just saying that to make me feel better. If that's the case, it's working.
The snow doesn't seem to be melting much, although it has settled some and blown around enough to leave just a couple feet of hard, crusted snow on the level where my hay bales are inconveniently stored out on the field.
Last weekend, I worked four hours with a front-wheel-assist tractor to dig out eight bales. Drive and push until you start spinning, make a pile of snow, take another angle, spin down and pile. Find a bale with 4 or 5 feet of snow drifted around it and pry it from its snowy vault.
It's not exactly an efficient operation to push snow for a half-hour or an hour to dig out a single bale and get it home. The pounds-of-hay-per-gallon-of-diesel ratio isn't looking very good at all this year.
Of course, the cows don't care how much diesel it took to get dinner delivered, just that it gets delivered.
I've heard of the crop circle phenomena where a farm field ends up with some unexplained geometric design in it where the grain is knocked down or bent over. Usually, aliens and UFO's get the blame.
If someone flew over our hay meadow after I'd been digging out snowbound bales they'd surely figure a winter hardy band of martians had made some crop circles in our snow. The designs may not be completely geometric, but some aliens are better drawers than others.
Or I think it might kind of look like a giant play area for a game we used to play when we were kids called the fox and the goose. You'd trudge a maze of trails through the snow and the "fox" would chase the "goose." You just had to make sure you never strayed from the trails.
Instead of fox and goose, I now play tractor and bale, and when there's 2 feet of hard snow on the level, you definitely have to stay on the trail. Once I catch a bale, I'm bound to taking the same circuitous route back out to the road that I made coming in, zigging and zagging from bale to bale.
If the snow digging and pushing didn't burn enough diesel, a trip to the road a hundred yards away might take a mile of meandering back through the maze. It's worse yet if you take a wrong turn in the maze and hit a dead end.
Now I know how the lab mice feel in the experiments on their memory. But I wander through the snowy maze looking for hay, not cheese. And the reward isn't for me but for my cows.
Maybe I'll just set up a little sensory perception experiment and turn the cows loose out on my maze in the snow. I'm willing to bet a hungry black cow can find a hay bale quicker than a little white rat can find his cheese.